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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


As I think back on our years as university administrators, our experiences which related to athletes and athletics really stand out. Certainly scholars, artists, musicians, scientists and others were important in our lives (think of Ronnie, Sid, Carl, and many, many others) but somehow the athletes stand out. Maybe it's because of our own successes in athletics; maybe it's just human nature to marvel at the feats that can be accomplished by the human body; maybe its just that there's nothing so grand as five to a hundred thousand people rising and cheering your success. In any case, here are a few stories of some of the athletic successes that we had at least a small part in encouraging.

Murray Saragan, of the Murray and Toppy partnership, was a good wrestler. He'd come out of Paul's program at Ironwood High School, wrestled in his freshman year at Mankato State, and transferred to UND for the second semester of his freshman year. That was in 1980. He'd continued his wrestling at UND and had had the best record of any of the UND wrestlers. Well, in his junior year he was undefeated and, based on points, he had the best record in the North Central Conference.

In the fall of 1982, during Murray's senior year, Tim got a visit from Dean Hellman, our wrestling coach. Dean was his first name, not his title, a fact that endlessly confused students. Untold numbers of students called him Dean, not realizing they were addressing him in a most familiar manner! Dean told Tim, "Your boy Murray's good enough to be thinking about the Olympics in two years. What do you think?"

"He'd be up against a lot tougher competition in the Trials than he is in the North Central Conference."

"Well, he beats everyone in the NCC."

"Why are you talking to me instead of Murray?"

"I know that you have a special interest in Murray. He's told me that you're sort of his surrogate father. I also know that you have a special interest in the Olympics. It just seemed like a good idea to talk to you first."

"Thanks, Dean. I appreciate it. And, yes, you're correct. I'm glad to be consulted. Go ahead and talk to Murray and see if he might be interested. If he is, have him talk to me."

"I'll just tell him that you're the Father Confessor for all budding Olympians on this campus. He should talk to you if he's at all interested."

A few days later Murray was at my office door. "Tim, can we talk a minute?"

"Sure. What's on you mind?"

"I guess its called Olympic fever. Coach Hellman dropped a bomb on me a day or two ago, and I guess I'm trying to sort a lot of things out."

"It takes real grit and determination to make the Olympics."

"I know. And better practice opponents than I have here."

"I think we can solve that. You know, we have three former Olympic wrestlers in the Gang and two of them live in Grand Forks. They'll give you a run for your money."

"Are they going to be willing to give up that much time?"

"Marty for sure will. His programs fall way off during the school day, because almost all of his clients are K-12 students. Jim works long hours, so you won't be able to get him as often. But Marty's younger, a product of a more recent Olympics; he's your best bet anyway. And don't discount Paul, your high school coach. We'll send you over to Ironwood for some rounds with him."

"You know I graduate a year before the Olympics."

"I guess you'll be heading to grad school. What's your major?"


"Career plans?"

"None really. I chose my major because I really liked Professor Ingram. I haven't really thought where I was headed."

"A Master's Degree in sociology won't hurt you. You can pace your program slowly so that you have plenty of time to practice. What about Toppy?"

"Toppy's majoring in music. He loves the band program here. He'll find an excuse to say around as long as I do."

"Well, you can count on living right where you are, same deal."

"Gee, thanks, Tim. I guess I'm really on my way to a serious effort to be an Olympic wrestler."

"Good luck, Murray. Keep me posted. I'll talk to Jim and Marty."

Jim and Marty were, of course, delighted to take Murray under their wing and shape him into an Olympic contender. But Marty cautioned, "The competition is going to be rough at the Trials. Wrestlers remain at their peak easier than some other sports, and we haven't had an Olympic team for eight years. The pressure to get on this team is going to be tremendous."

"That's better than no chance at all, which is what the athletes of the last Olympiad had."

"You're right on that."

I checked up on Toppy with Ralph Bonson our band director. I was well aware that Ralph thought very highly of Toppy as musician, drum major (which is more of an athletic than musical position) and leader. Ralph had told me previously that he'd been mightily impressed by Toppy's ability to inspire the rest of the band to greater efforts and higher heights of musicianship. My question now was, "Where do you see Toppy next year, after he graduates?"

Ralph had replied, "I've just assumed that I'd lose him, that he'd be moving on with his life."

"I think Toppy and Murray are very eager to stay right here in Grand Forks, at least until 1984."

"1984? What's special about that date?"

"I forget that musicians aren't part of the Olympics, which will be in Los Angeles in 1984."

"And Toppy?"

"Not Toppy, Murray. He's a wrestler."

"Ah, I see. Well, I can certainly see a role for Toppy next year. You know, the band isn't part of the NCAA, we don't have a pile of eligibility rules. Toppy can be in the band as a grad student."

"Drum major?"


"I'm uncomfortable with him doing it for two years. Some senior should get his chance."

"Co-drum majors, perhaps?"

"Good idea."

And so a plan was born. And as it turned out, it was a most fortuitous plan, as Toppy was an important part of some major events in the coming year.

Arnie and Fyn had been committed to trying for the Los Angeles Olympics ever since their fateful train ride, a story told in Episode 96-Milwaukee. They'd accepted our invitation to remain in the house, along with Margie, for the two years between their graduation and the Olympics. They didn't want grad school getting in the way of their practice schedules, so they'd enrolled as special students, taking the minimum load that gave them campus privileges-specifically the use of the pool and access to Coaches Larry and Bess. However, their real coaches were each other, and Tim. They were getting to be very good, and in their senior year had led the North Central Conference in diving, consistently finishing 1-2 on both platform and springboard. They seemed to take turns in the number one position.

In their senior year they'd both done well in the NCAA Nationals and the open Nationals where Tim had first come to national attention. But, as yet, they had no first place finishes in national competition.

Particularly after the big meeting about AIDS, they'd gotten to know most of the Gang. Fred, of course, took an interest in them. His first gift to them, right after graduation, was to arrange for a week in Bloomington, Indiana, working with Billy. Margie had declined to go with them to Bloomington, saying that she wanted them to bond with Billy and that she would be in the way. They came back even more enthused about their diving, and Tim was convinced they'd improved significantly in the week. The 1982 Worlds were in London in the summer. Fred arranged for the entire Circle to go, along with him and Marty, Tim and me, Billy and Sara, Larry and his wife, and Bess who brought along her significant other Ed Wendell. We suspected that wedding bells weren't far off. Arnie and Fyn did quite respectably at Worlds, Arnie getting a second and fourth, and Fyn a fifth and second. Had the Olympic trials been held at that point they would've earned a trip to Los Angeles, but probably not earned medals-certainly not gold.

We all had a good time in London. Fred insisted that we all stay over for a few days after the meet, and we did the sights of London, ate our fill of fish 'n chips, got to know each other better, and generally got charged up for the activities of the summer and fall. Except for Bess and Ed. As soon as Fyn and Arnie completed their diving Ed and Beth disappeared. We think they did come back to the hotel at night, but they were never seen. It was romantic London for them, and they came home engaged. We were all delighted for Bess; we'd been worried that romance had passed her by. Definitely not.

We spent more time at the Pike Lake cabin that summer than we had in a long time. Things seemed to be pretty relaxed at the university, and we felt we needed some down time. Almost as soon as we got to Michigan we ran over to Camp White Elk to visit Jeff and Dick, as well as to see the camp again. Jeff had found that Stanley was right about the camp clientele accepting that fact that he was gay and living with his partner at camp. He and Dick didn't hide the fact that they lived together and were life partners-the term they always used when asked. On the other hand they avoided any public displays of physical affection, particularly kissing. You'd see them hold hands once in a while, but that was it. Jeff said, "It's somewhat of an unwritten compromise. We can be gay, but we don't rub anybody's nose in it. It works for us, and the camp is thriving. We have a number of gay campers, some in the closet and some out. We've had to remind a couple that if this were a coed camp, sex would be out of bounds, and it is for gay boys at a boys camp. It hasn't been a problem." They had had two boys that they were pretty sure were doing things in the woods, but the boy'd been quite discreet, and Jeff was not in the least interested in following up on his suspicions. He hoped they were having a good time, and being careful.

Dick confided in us that while Jeff could not, as the camp director, relate to kids who were sexually involved, he, Dick, did pass on advice from time to time. His advice was pretty blunt: "Keep your dick out of his ass until you get home and have access to condoms. The Gay Disease isn't a joke." By the end of the summer he would have a new name for it.

As we ate dinner the night of the visit Jeff made two suggestions. First, that we spend the night with them; we were pretty sure what the implications of that were. Second, he suggested that we take Dick back to the cabin with us for a few days. Dick had less camp responsibilities, and it would be good for him to get away. We agreed to both, and we were right about the plans for the night.

At noon the next day we were ready to head back to Pike Lake, taking Dick along. As the four of us stood next to our car, Jeff surprised us with, "Listen, you guys. I want you to give this little kid a run for his money for the next few days. He's a horny little bastard, and I can't give it to him as fast as he can take it. You're closer to his age; wear him out."

Dick just laughed, "Wear who out? These guys couldn't possibly do that."

Tim said, "Challenge accepted. You're sure about this, Jeff?"


"So am I," chimed in Dick.

We had no sooner gotten into the car and headed a little ways down the road when I looked in the rear view mirror to see that Dick already had his shirt off and was working on his pants. "Hey," I said, "Not in the car. It's a little too public."

"I have a swim suit on, I just want to get comfortable." When he got down to his suit we realized what comfortable meant. Tim's skimpy diving suits covered at least twice as much as the little thing Dick wore; it was barely more than a thong. He grinned and said, "It's legal, but just barely, and I'm eager to be rid of even this."

We stopped by Hidden Lake, where we'd seen Dick and Jeff have their first serious sexual encounter, and where we'd done much of the same with Dick. Dick was out the door, sans suit, before the car was fully stopped. He headed for the beach and lay down on his back in a spread eagle position, very hard, very quickly. It was pretty obvious what he wanted and he got it. We were quickly repaid in kind.

We didn't get him away from the lake until he'd come three times and each of us twice. The next few days at Pike Lake were just about the sexiest time we'd had in years. The kid was insatiable.

The fall of 1982 brought a new football season. Jumper had been working with a pretty young team in his winning season the year before, and so he had much the same team in the 1982 season. They were good; they liked each other and played well together; they loved Jumper and would do anything for him; and they followed Nate as their captain and quarterback without reservation. By the time the final regular season game approached, the national news media was onto the phenomenal continuation of their winning streak. The final game would bring the streak to a nice round 25 games and lead them into the Division II playoffs with quite a record. The team, along with Jumper and Tim made the cover of Sports Illustrated when they got their 25th win. It was Tim's tenth SI cover! The eleventh was when the team won the Division II championship for the second year in a row, extending the streak to 28. When the team arrived back in Grand Forks, this year on a chartered plane that came directly to Grand Forks, they greeted the crowd with pink and green sweat shirts emblazoned with the number 41. Jumper was dead serious about the number 41, and his team knew it. They were on a roll and they knew it.

Hell, the whole campus knew it. Not much of importance happened on campus between the final game and the Christmas holiday. Thank goodness we hadn't yet gone to a college calendar that ended the term at Christmas; we still used the conventional semester system. We would be forced to accept that change, whether we liked it or not, before too long. But Tim simply couldn't imagine trying to hold term exams in the post-game excitement of that year. And what about the following year, if we really did have a 41 game winning streak?

In January, 1983, Jumper came into my office carrying a newspaper. It was the sports section of the Detroit Free Press of that morning. The main story was about a recruiting scandal at Grand State University. It was a pretty sad affair, with kids getting all kinds of under the table money and perks. On top of that there was a strong implication of an involvement of organized gambling. The final act of the drama was the cancellation of Grand State's football schedule for the 1983 season, and perhaps longer. I read the article but didn't see any connection to UND. "You aren't suggesting that kind of thing is going on around here, are you? Or with any of the teams we play against?"

"Certainly not. We're clean as a whistle you can believe me, and if I thought otherwise about opponents, I simply wouldn't play against them, even if they were in our conference."

"I was pretty sure of that, Jumper. So why are you showing me that article, and why with a sort of sly grin?"

"Grand State is, well, was, scheduled to play the University of Michigan, at Michigan, in November."


"You know Bo Schembechler, right?"

"Not real well, but I did know him when I was at Michigan."

"Oh, come on, Tim. You guys were friends, and I know you put on a half time show for him. Maybe he owes you one."

"I think I smell a rat."

"But a wonderful one."

"Jumper, you have a streak going. You want to win 41 games in a row before this coming season is over. And you're talking about taking Grand State's place on the Michigan schedule. They'll cream you. They're one of the best teams in the country."

"So are the Fighting Sioux. What's the point of winning 41 games in a row if you can't prove you can beat the best? I'd sooner have a shot at Michigan than at 41."

"You're serious?"

"Of course."

"You make it all sound so simple. I should just call up Bo and ask him? Remind him that he owes me one? Just like that? We're Division II, we don't play Division I."

"No rule against it. We can play whoever will play us outside our conference schedule."

"Michigan isn't going to play us."

"They have a slot to fill. Finding a Division I school at the last minute, at least one that they want to play, is going to be tough. Besides, you come in the package. You can do another half-time stunt."


"Don't kid me, Tim, my boy. You loved that performance in front of more than 100,000 fans, and just thinking about it has your adrenaline pumping already. Right?"

Tim's comment when he told me later of the conversation was, "Damn, Charlie, he was right!"

Tim started with President Rogers at Michigan. His reaction when Tim told him of the conversation he'd just had with Jumper was to say, "Tim, if this had come from anyone but you I would just have laughed and probably hung up. I'm sure Bo would react the same way. But after having you here for three years we know you're something special, and everything you touch is something special. Let me talk to Bo, and we'll see if there's any possibility. If so, let's get together and explore that possibility.

Two days later Rogers called back. "Tim, I talked to Bo. His first comment was, 'Oh, God, did someone really let him get close to a football team?'"

"I thought he might say something like that. I assume that he's checked our record. We're sitting on 28 straight wins."

"Division II wins, Bo pointed out."

"Is he scared?"

"You want to know his exact reaction?"


"He said, 'It sounds like a joke, but you have to take Tim seriously. And if he, or his coach, is seriously proposing this, we'll have to take them seriously.'"

"It sounds like he might be willing to take us on."

"He's willing to talk. Bring your coach, and whoever else you think should be involved, and come over here and we'll talk. Bring Charlie along, I haven't seen him since your inaugural."

The University of North Dakota delegation consisted of Tim and me, Jumper, Nate and Pat, Ralph Bonson our band director, and Toppy our drum major. When Tim called Jackson Rogers back, Rogers was a little startled by the size of our delegation and the fact that it would contain three students. But the meeting was set for the end of January.

The university planes weren't big enough to carry seven plus a pilot, and airline schedules were too inconvenient to fly commercial. We dipped into Fred's unrestricted fund and chartered a little bigger plane to fly us directly from Grand Forks to Ann Arbor. We were in President Rogers' office by 10:30 in the morning, the last Wednesday of January. Rogers had decided that if we were going to have students Michigan had better as well, so their group included Rogers, Schembechler, and their band director, as well as two students: their quarterback and their drum major. The two students were clearly uncomfortable and out of their league. On the other hand, Nate, Pat, and Toppy behaved like the outstanding leaders they were.

Jumper started with, "Look, I'll promise you a run for your money. It'll be a good game. Tim'll back me up on that, and you know you can trust Tim. Nate here will back me up as well. He's our quarterback, and he'll do us proud. Do I think we can beat you? Hell, I don't know. But we won't leave embarrassed."

Their quarterback was a powerhouse, strong and handsome; he looked the part of quarterback for one of the best teams in the country. He may have been smart, but articulate he wasn't. "Yeah, sure," was the best he could come up with.

Jumper said, "Son, underestimating an opponent is a sure path to defeat. I strongly suggest that you take Nate seriously. I can assure you that he's going to take you very seriously. But Nate doesn't want to win because you let your ego run the game; if he's going to win he wants to win because he leads the better team."

The kid kind of snickered and repeated, "Yeah, sure."

Schembechler looked a little embarrassed. He said, "Believe me, you will be taken seriously. And you will be beaten."

Tim said, "I think it's going to be an interesting game."

And without any further discussion the matter was settled. What came next really made me proud. Toppy spoke up and asked, "What's the half-time show going to look like?"

The Michigan group was startled that this had come from a student. Their band director answered, "I assume from the fact that you folks are here that you want both bands to perform."

Toppy kept right going, speaking on behalf of UND, "I think we ought to be able to work out a half time show that features both bands separately and then playing together. I think you'll find that we sound as good, or almost as good, as you guys. But I know for a fact that our marching isn't as good. We simply don't have the practice time that you have, and we'll have many more underclassmen on the field than you will. So we need to design a show that shows off the best of both bands."

Bo said, "Tim, are you willing to be part of the show? I remember a really spectacular half-time show when you were one of ours."

Jumper spoke for Tim, "He loves to show off. Of course, he'll be part of the show."

Bo said, "I wonder if we can get him a Johnny Carson appearance the week before the game?"

Tim said, "Good idea, but just exactly what would you like me to do at half-time. I can't repeat the last stunt."

Jumper said, "That's simple. We put you on the rings, way up in the air, let you show off a little, and then let you break your own world's record on either the "T" or the inverted "T"-with the bands counting the time in some way."

We had six months to work out the details, but the deal was set. The Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota and the Wolverines of the University of Michigan would meet on Saturday, November 19, 1983, at the 101,001 Stadium in Ann Arbor. If the streak continued until then, a win over Michigan would be North Dakota's 37th consecutive win. Jumper, Nate, Pat, and Tim were the only four people on earth that believed that to be within the realm of possibility. Jumper liked to point out the paradox: It was only within the realm of possibility because nobody believed it was within the realm of possibility-in particular nobody at Michigan.

The announcement was greeted unfavorably on both campuses. Bo was accused of looking for an easy opponent where he could make the Wolverines look good. Jumper was accused of sacrificing the chance to keep his undefeated streak going. Both coaches simply replied to all critics that they expected a fine game and a fine show.

In the above story I wasn't really fair to the two Michigan students. They weren't dunces. When we all went to lunch they turned out to be very pleasant and attractive young men. However, they simply weren't used to being involved in high level meetings involving the presidents of universities. Tim, on the other hand, involved students in everything possible, and it wasn't out of the ordinary to include students as he had on this trip. Jumper was the same. There's no doubt that Nate had vastly more independence as a quarterback than the young man from Michigan.

In the fall of 1983 Murray got a telephone call from Paul. "Murray, I understand that you're headed for the Olympics?'

"Coach Paul, it's good to hear from you. Yeah, I'm hoping to make the team, but I have a long way to go."

"Why don't you come over here to Ironwood for a week or so and get some real practice in. You can work out during the day, and we'll go at it in the evening. I think I could be a worthy opponent, even if I am getting to be an old man."

"You're a long way from old, Coach. I'd love to come. Can Toppy come along?"

"Of course, I'd love to see him."

And so the two boys were off to Ironwood for a visit of undetermined length. They'd stay with Paul and Amanda. Both boys were, I think, hoping that they might have some reconciliation with their parents, but neither was too hopeful. Murray was planning serious wrestling practice, and Toppy was looking for a chance to really relax.

They drove over, arriving about four one Friday afternoon. They scheduled their arrival just before the weekend, because Paul would have more practice time available for Murray on the weekends. Amanda had just gotten home and was starting dinner. Paul arrived soon after. They had a wonderful reunion followed by a nice dinner. Amanda served wine, which was a relatively new experience for the boys. They were less than a year away from being of legal age, but Paul and Amanda decided to ignore that. The boys were delighted to be considered adults by their former coach and his wife. Amanda cleared the table, but instead of bringing in dessert she returned to the table, sat down, and said, "OK, boys. Strip. I want to feast on two of the handsomest bodies in the North."

Murray and Toppy had wondered if this was coming, and when. They were ready, and very sensuously took off their clothes, flinging each piece around the room. By the time they were naked they were hard as rocks, and they stood there, clearly proud of their equipment. After Amanda, and Paul, had stared for a while, Murray said, "OK, you two strip."

Amanda and Paul weren't ready for that, but after reflecting on it for a little while both seemed to conclude that turnabout was fair play. They boys were, after all, adults, and the coach-student athlete relationship had ended years before. Amanda was naked first, and was a true visual treat. Paul followed close on, and his body was as strong, muscled, and well-proportioned as it had been when he was an Olympic wrestler. He'd kept himself in excellent physical condition.

Murray almost gasped when he saw Paul. "God, I hope that I can be like that in a dozen years. And Amanda, you're absolutely gorgeous."

Toppy looked them both over and asked, "Are we, or aren't we, on this visit?"

Paul asked, "Are we, or aren't we, what?"

Amanda, "Oh, Paul, don't be stupid. You know what he's asking, and since I started this, it's a legitimate question for him. And we're the ones that're going to have to answer it."

Paul said, "I'm not sure I'm ready to have sex with a student, even a former student."

Amanda said, "Paul isn't really a prude. But he takes a while to get used to new ideas, especially sexy ones. But as you know we've been sexually active within certain groups in the Gang, and if we lived in Grand Forks it would be with all of the Gang. But how about you guys and the Gang? Do you have sex with the Gang over in Grand Forks?"

Murray said, "No. We had sex with some at the Pike Lake cabin the first summer, but as students over in Grand Forks we've been off limits. I'm kind of thinking that may change, but I really don't know."

Toppy said, "As far as GRID is concerned we're inside the group."

Paul said, "It's now called AIDS, I think. It takes the gay stigma out of the name."

Toppy replied, "I've heard it called AIDS, but I'm not used to it yet. Luckily, it's remained outside of my experience. I've never met anyone with AIDS."

Amanda said, "OK, you guys are gay. I don't have much of a penis, and I'm shy a pair of balls. Are you still interested in sex with me?"

Toppy said, "I think we buy into Tim's rule that there's gay and straight in almost everybody. It's both of you, not Murray, that've got me hard. And you can see that I'm very, very hard."

Amanda said, "I can see that very well. Paul, don't you think we should help him do something about that?"

Paul, very hard himself, said, "OK, Toppy, what would be your greatest fantasy at this point?"

"That's simple: that you and Amanda would take turns sucking me."

Amanda said, "Let's go upstairs to our bed."

Upstairs, Toppy got his fantasy. Murray got his as well: that they would work over his ass with their fingers as they jacked him off.

Murray then asked, "OK, what are your fantasies?"

"I think ours have already come true," said Amanda. "But we're open to further suggestions."

Since Murray and Toppy were both now sporting rather limp poles, they decided to use their tongues to bring a conclusion to Paul and Amanda's fantasies, whatever they were.

Amanda ended it all with, "If we head back downstairs, I have a fresh baked cake and ice cream for us for dessert."

Paul said, "I think it might be a good idea if we got dressed first. Anybody could ring the doorbell, and it would be pretty embarrassing if it was one of my students."

The rest of the evening was spent in quiet conversation as each couple caught up with the lives of the other. They headed to bed fairly early. After deciding that four in a bed wasn't going to be too restful, Amanda and Toppy announced that they thought that the two wrestlers should sleep together, at least for the first night.

They may've slept peacefully together at night, but you couldn't have told it to watch them in the ring the next day. Paul had a little weight advantage over Murray, as well as age and cunning. Murray had the vigor and impetuosity of youth. Both were in excellent condition, but Murray was more than a decade younger; it was inevitable that Paul had to be at least a little past his prime. Besides, though he kept in shape, and constantly worked with wrestlers, he didn't actually wrestle on a regular basis like Murray. It all added up to a complete inability to predict the outcome of their matches.

All of which meant that the matches were spectacular. Neither could consistently beat the other, though they tried mightily. Paul said, "I have never had this kind of competition since I wrestled Jim. Murray, I really think you are Olympic material. Maybe gold medal material. Another round?"

They went round after round that Saturday, till both of them were almost unable to climb into the ring. They did it all over again on Sunday. Monday was a school day for Paul. By Tuesday they'd be getting up early to have a few rounds before school, but on that Monday they slept in. Paul managed to get himself to school, and Murray and Toppy slept in most of the morning, and walked around town in the afternoon. They ended up at the high school just as school ended and wrestling practice was about to begin. It wasn't wrestling season as yet, but the boys that were interested were always welcome in the gym after school, and the really good wrestlers-those who didn't play football, namely the lighter weight classes-took advantage of the opportunity for extra coaching and practice.

That day they got to watch the best wrestling that any of them had ever seen-a former Olympic gold medalist against a younger man who just might be one of the next Olympic gold medalists, at least in Paul's opinion.

Paul rarely wrestled against his wrestlers; it wasn't a fair match and he had some misgivings about wrestling with his students. But that day, all week in fact, they prevailed on both Murray and Paul to take on all comers. Murray and Paul came away exhausted and completely done in, but undefeated-except by each other.

Tuesday evening, right after dinner, Murray and Toppy decided that they'd try to call their parents. Neither had had any communication with their families since the very difficult separations three years before. Murray made the first call. His mother answered and he said, "Mom, this is Murray."

"Murray! Where are you? We really thought you might be dead. Oh, God, how wonderful to hear your voice."

"I'm not dead. I'm visiting here in Ironwood for a week or so."

"Where are you staying?"

"Mom, I have to be very careful. Dad threw me out of the house three years ago, and said he never wanted to see me again if I had decided I was a queer. I haven't changed; has Dad?"

"I honestly don't know. But I have to see you Murray. What've you been doing? Where are you living? How have you gotten along?"

"I'm fine, Mom. Toppy and I live together; we're in college. Everything is going very well with us. I'm hoping to be an Olympic wrestler in two years."

"An Olympic wrestler? Oh, my God."

"Is Dad home?"

"Not now. He will be soon."

"OK, Mom, here's the plan. Talk to Dad. I'll call tomorrow evening about this time. If he'll talk to me, we'll talk. If not, then I'll see you sometime during the day."

"OK, Murray. That's fair. Oh, my goodness, I can't wait to see you."

"I want to see you, too, Mom. Bye for now."

Murray had been completely composed during the call, but broke down completely when he hung up. Toppy held him tight, and he quietly sobbed. I don't think he'd realized the impact that talking to his mother was going to have on him. He calmed, and said, "OK, Toppy, your turn."

Paul said, "First, fill us in on the other half of the conversation."

Murray did, breaking down again as he reconstructed the conversation as best he could. Finally Toppy said, "OK, it's my turn." He took the phone and dialed the once-familiar number."


"Dad, it's Toppy."

"I don't know a Toppy."

"Dad, it's your son."

"I don't have a son any more."

Toppy simply hung up. He stood there looking totally drained of all life. Murray grabbed him and hugged him before he could fall over. Paul and Amanda couldn't believe what they were hearing as Toppy repeated his father's words, word for word.

The three of them hugged Toppy for a long while. Amanda said, "I'm not a psychologist, but I know that we need to respond to this in some positive way. Let's go get a decent dinner and then go to a movie. It'll get everyone's mind off this, and will get us through to bedtime. Toppy, you need to sleep with Murray tonight. By tomorrow this will have to be history."

Toppy didn't have the wrestling to keep his mind involved; this was supposed to be a week of relaxation. How do you relax after that? At breakfast Murray said, "Toppy, today we're going to get in the car and drive. I don't know where, but we need to get out of this town for the day."

Paul said, "You don't want to drive too far. Head east over to Lake Gogebic. Drive around the lake. It's a pretty drive. Lots of places to stop. Eat a nice lunch. Come back for practice. Toppy, come to practice with us. Mr. Farley would love to see you. I'll tell him you're coming."

The boys took the drive to Lake Gogebic, about forty miles to the east of Ironwood. It's a long, skinny lake, heading north-south. There are resorts all around it, and a little town on the north end. They stopped for coffee in a little café at the north end, but then had trouble finding lunch, because the resorts along the shore were closed for the season. They found a little store at one point and bought bread, jelly and peanut butter to make pb&j sandwiches, which they nibbled on for rest of the day. They were back in Ironwood by 1:30, rested, and with the memories of Toppy's phone call of last night almost erased.

They got to the high school just as the closing bell rang. Murray headed for the gym and another working over by Paul. Toppy headed off to find Mr. Farley, the band teacher. They had a nice reunion, and the two of them walked to the gym to watch the wrestling. This was Wednesday, and word of the Monday and Tuesday wrestling matches between Coach Paul and Murray had circulated around the school. There was a pretty big crowd in the gym to watch the proceedings. Murray and Paul went after each other as if there'd been no one else in the gym-except that Paul had reminded Murray that he needed to watch his language. The "Oh, shits" of the weekend had better become unverbalized grunts. They'd pause between rounds and Paul would give Murray pointers, based on the previous round. Then back at it. Gradually the crowd dwindled down to Toppy, Mr. Farley, and one or two others. When they were done it was almost dinner time, and Paul invited Farley to join them for dinner.

They had a fine time at dinner. Mr. Farley was eager to hear of Toppy's successes with the UND Band, and delighted to learn that the tragic situation they'd confronted three years before had turned out well. Murray and Toppy were delighted to parade their post high school successes.

After dinner Murray called his home.


"Dad, its Murray."

"Hello, Murray. How are you? Thanks for calling?

"I'm fine Dad. I'd like to see you and Mom."

"Why don't you come for dinner tomorrow night?"

"Toppy and I would be delighted to come."

"That's kind of a tough one, Murray."

"Dad, Toppy's my life partner. He'd be my spouse if that was legal. Where he isn't welcome, I'm not welcome."

There was a long silence. Then, "Your mother and I would be glad to have you and Toppy for dinner tomorrow night. Come about six."

"I'd like to make it about seven, if that's all right. I'm here to practice my wrestling, and the only time Coach can give me is after school."

"OK, Murray, seven it is."

"I'll see you, Dad. Say, 'Hi,' to Mom, I'm eager to see her."

The others had heard only one side of the conversation, but were soon filled in. "That went well," said Paul, and Murray agreed.

"He's clearly uncomfortable with the whole idea of Toppy."

Amanda said, "I was proud of you that you stuck to your guns about Toppy. It really saddens me to say this, but your relationship with Toppy is more important than your relationship with your parents. Toppy has stuck with you through everything; your parents haven't."

Mr. Farley said, "That's so sad, but true. As I remember it, Toppy came out to his parents trying to get help for you, isn't that right, Murray?"

"Yes, it is."

Toppy said, "Murray would've done the same for me. We loved each other then, and we do now. I don't think we really understood love back then, and we wouldn't have used the term, but we would've done anything for each other."

"Amen, brother," said Murray.

Amanda was now the Coordinator for Environmental Education for the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District, with her office in the high school in Bessemer. The next day she got a call at her office from Murray's mother. "Mrs. Weeks, this is Angela Saragan, Murray Saragan's mother."

"How do you do, Mrs. Saragan. I was certainly glad to hear last night that you've invited Murray and Toppy to dinner. But how did you know to call me?"

"When Murray called and let us know he was in town we guessed that he'd be staying with you. We know that he lived with you during his senior year of high school."

"We never knew whether you knew where he was or not."

"We didn't do well by Murray that year, but we did find out where he was living. We knew he was OK."

"He could've hitchhiked to New York or San Francisco instead of talking to his wrestling coach."

"I know. Thank God he didn't. I'm afraid that he had a better head on his shoulders than his father and mother."

"Why are you calling me today, Mrs. Saragan?"

"To invite you and Mr. Weeks to join us at dinner tonight. Toppy's mother is going to be there as well."

"Not his father?"

"I'm afraid that Toppy no longer has a father. As far as George Coleman is concerned, Toppy and Murray don't exist."

"That's so sad."

"Will you come to dinner with the boys?"

"Are you sure you want us there? Isn't it going to be a very private reunion."

"You and your husband were mother and father to Murray and Toppy. I think they'd like you there. But they couldn't ask you. I can. Please come."

Paul and Amanda did go, and it was quite an evening. To start off Murray and Toppy hadn't seen their parents for three years. They had been hurt badly, but it didn't mean that the didn't have an affection for them, and missed them a lot. Toppy had had no idea that his mother would be present, but was very glad to see her. "Is Dad coming?" he asked.

"Toppy, I'm afraid that you heard your father's last word on the telephone two nights ago. I'm sorry. I cried myself to sleep over it the last two nights. But he isn't going to change."

"I hate to say this, Mom, but Paul's been a better father to me than my real father has."

"I know, son. I'm so sorry." They hugged, and fought back tears, but got through the moment.

As soon as he could free him from his mother, Murray grabbed Toppy and pulled him over to his parents. "Mom, Dad, I know you've met my friend Toppy already. But I want to introduce you to my partner and lover, Toppy."

Angela hugged Toppy and said, "Thank you for being so kind to Murray. I'm certain that he couldn't have gotten through the last years without you." Toppy hugged her back, but couldn't manage to say anything.

The meeting between Hank Saragan and Toppy was a little more difficult. Hank wasn't the hugging type, but he did his best with a handshake and a "Hello, Toppy."

I think everyone present realized that this was difficult for Hank, but that he was trying. Murray, especially, appreciated that a real effort was being made. He didn't push things. By introducing Toppy as he had, he'd made his point. His father had passed, barely, but passed.

The boys were delighted to hear that their parents, at least the three present, had watched them through high school. They'd been at graduation, sitting in the back. They knew the boys had gone to Mankato, but didn't know of the transfer to UND. As the stories of their lives in Grand Forks came out they were flabbergasted. Their successes, their friendships with Tim and Charlie, their living in our house, and Murray's pursuit of Olympic metal all were new to them, and far beyond their wildest dreams.

Eventually the conversation moved around to Paul and Amanda, and they were thanked for caring for the boys when they'd been failed by their parents.

At the end of the evening, Angela invited Murray and Toppy to stay the night in Murray's old room, now a guest room, or to move in for the rest of their stay in Ironwood.

Murray had replied, "Mom, Dad, this's really tough to say, but you need to know that I think of the room in Paul and Amanda's house as "my room," not my old room here. I carried my life out of this room here in tears and sadness, and went to Paul and Amanda's with relief and joy. It's wonderful to reestablish a relationship with you now, but I can't simply put aside the last three years. Paul and Amanda's house is 'home' for me."

Angela teared up at that, but said, "I think I understand. We failed you, and we can't simply come back into your life and put things right in one evening."

Amanda said, "That's right. But you've come a long way in one evening, and I know it means a lot to Murray and Toppy."

Toppy's mother hugged him, and said, "George and I haven't come that far. George hasn't moved at all, but I have. Toppy, I thank you for letting me back into your life."

"I love you, Mom. You'll always be part of my life."

Paul was thinking that maybe it was time for a Carl-like announcement to end the mushiness. But he thought better of it. This was a real catharsis for all of the parties. He thought, "Damn that George Coleman for being such a boob."

The next week in Ironwood was uneventful. The wrestling continued. Murray and Toppy found time to spend with their parents (except Toppy's father, George, who wouldn't budge, in spite of his wife's pleading), and before long it was time to head back to North Dakota. Murray and Toppy left about noon on Monday, staying through the third weekend, because Saturday and Sunday were the days that Paul could spend the most time working with Murray. Toppy did get his chances to relax, and was able to spend quite a bit of time with his mother. She still worked part-time, but they had every lunch together. Toppy guessed that her resentment of the attitude of his father was growing, but didn't know what to expect from that.

It's about a two hour drive to Duluth from Ironwood. They stopped at the same hotel that members of the Gang had used for honeymoon celebrations. They'd heard the stories. When they got home they told the rest of the Circle, and later the Gang, that the night in Duluth was their honeymoon, and that they now considered themselves married, even if the law did not.

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